Annual Kidney Walk to be held at Cape Henlopen State Park
The National Kidney Foundation of Maryland will be holding its annual Kidney Walk on Sunday, April 15, at Cape Henlopen State Park.
“The first walk we had 145 people. Last year had we 320, and we’re expecting at least 400 this year,” said Lois Morgan, NKF-MD’s director of Delmarva Services. “This year, we’re moving it to Cape Henlopen. Everyone’s so excited to be having it at the beach this year.”
Morgan, a former dialysis nurse, is now in her fifth year serving as director of Delmarva Services.
“I worked as a dialysis nurse. So I really have a heart for the organization and what I do. I know that it really does reach out and benefit the dialysis community. We do a lot to help spread the word about kidney disease.”
Registration will begin at 9 a.m. at the Picnic Pavilion the day of the event, with the walk starting at 10 a.m. Participants have the option of walking the 3.2-mile trail or a shorter trail designed to accommodate strollers and wheelchairs. There is no registration fee, but $100 is the minimum pledge required to receive a Kidney Walk T-shirt. Well-mannered pets are also welcome to participate and, for a $5 fee, they will receive a doggie gift bag.
Face painting will be available for families attending the event. Snacks will be available to those who attend, and grilled hot dogs will be served following the walk.
According to Morgan, last year the walk brought in $29,000, which was spent on everything from research to education.
“We were really happy about that,” she said. “The first year it was about $14,000. Every year, we raise more and more. So, of course, we’re hoping for even more this year. One of the really big things we do is spend it on research, nearly $200,000 on research.
“Another big thing is patent emergency assistance. We do free screenings for kidney disease. All the dialysis patients get free medical-alert jewelry that we pay for. We also have a transportation fund and we spend a lot of money on education… around $50,000 a year.”
Morgan said that walk participants range from pups to kids to patients and everyone in between.
“We do have an awful lot of people from the dialysis unit and the dialysis staff, and of course family members of people who are affected by kidney disease. We have a lot of other people who come out just because they feel it’s important to support the cause.”
One participant is state Sen. George Bunting, who received a kidney as part of a four-way kidney swap in 2008.
“The Kidney Foundation does a lot for research,” said Bunting. “And having spent 15 months on dialysis in the clinic here in Rehoboth, I know firsthand the need for research and also the need to make people aware that there are programs today, which I was involved with, that make kidneys more available for people waiting across the country.”
Bunting, who had polycystic kidney disease, said he had previously been unaware of how many people in the county are affected by kidney disease.
“I wasn’t totally aware of it until I got the disease, and realizing how many people’s lives it seems to touch. We have a lot of people with renal failure right here at our back door in Sussex County.”
“The number of patients on dialysis in this area, in the past couple years, has risen by about 10 percent,” added Morgan. “About 1 in 9 adults have some kind of kidney disease, but most of them are unaware. So we’re trying to really spread the word that kidney disease is a silent killer and it’s important for everyone to ask their doctor what their kidney function is.
“Most of the time it tends to be silent, and most kidney disease is brought on by either high blood pressure or diabetes,” Morgan noted. “About 50 percent of dialysis patients are diabetic, so over the course of a number of years, the diabetes takes a toll on the kidneys, especially if it’s not well-controlled.”
Bunting and his wife, Donna, were half of a four-way transplant at Johns Hopkins Hospital, performed by renowned surgeon Dr. Robert Montgomery.
“A good friend of mine, Bill Vernon, came and told me about this doctor that had this program where they reach out across the country and try to match up people through the computer,” recalled Bunting. “Of course, my wife – being a former nurse – got on it. She dogged him for three or four months. She didn’t let up on him, because she knew what I was going through.”
Eventually, matches were found, and Donna Bunting donated a kidney to a man in Virginia, and Sen. Bunting received a kidney, all on the same day.
“She said it wasn’t to her any more than having a root canal done, or less. I’m not quite sure I’d go along with that,” he said.
Bunting – who is retiring as a state legislator after this session, with a 28-year legacy behind him – added that he hopes that his having been in public service will help spread awareness.
“Hopefully, I can bring attention to it,” he said. “Rep. [Pete] Schwartzkopf gave his kidney to a young person here in the Rehoboth area, and he certainly gave her a quality of life. Making people aware – not only of the transplant part of it, but telling people that you want to take care of yourself and get the proper care you need – is important.”
Morgan added that she hopes that everyone in the community will venture out and support the National Kidney Foundation and their work.
“It’s a fun activity for everyone in the community,” said Morgan. “We just hope that it will continue on the trend that it’s been on, with more people participating every year and raising more money.”
To pre-register, or for information about sponsorship or volunteer opportunities, call (410) 546-1969 or visit www.kidneymd.org.